We call her petrol, because she burns like a flame
We call her petrol, because that’s her name.
Sheer poetry as far as I’m concerned, taken from ‘Petrol’ by The Vibrators. You wouldn’t be wrong calling The Vibrators second division punk, but I really like their 1977 LP Pure Mania. My friend Faz and I staged a two-man punk revival in Leeds in 1991 and this is one of the gems he passed on to me. I played this sucker to death, the opener ‘Into the Future’ just transported me back in time, to a past I wished I was cool enough to have had, hanging around the Kings Road in Chelsea and going to see X-Ray Spex at the 100 Club, or the Roxy (I airbrush out all the being chased around by teddy boys and/or being spat on and bottled at gigs). Leaping into action I replaced my taped copy with vinyl in 2003, it cost me a fair bit too.
The Vibrators were punk in the same way The Stranglers were, they were slightly wiser, older guys who’d knocked around in the pub rock scene and could play their instruments and write tunes – in circumstances other than the ferment of the London punk scene in 1976-7 that would be seen as a good thing, at that point in history this was, in fact, very bad. Very, very bad, bordering on evil. In fact let me do you a diagram of how bad:
Pure Mania is a great sugar rush of an LP, and uniquely not only did The Vibrators pick up on The Ramones love of speed and rock and roll, they picked up on their slushy, romantic side too; ‘Baby Baby’ and ‘Sweet Sweet Heart’ pretty much do what it says on the tin, both are pretty damn fine too*. The punkier cuts like ‘Into the Future’, ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’, ‘Petrol’ and ‘Bad Time’ do their job well, plenty of sneering vocal lines and guitar licks throughout. In fact on ‘You Broke my Heart’ and ‘Stiff Little Fingers’ (where that band took its name from) put the Vibrators ahead of the curve a little and into New Wave territory. If I have an overall criticism it is that the sound is a bit thin in places and so cuts like ‘Whips and Furs’ and ‘No Heart’ lack any real clout, or wallop.
There you go, one for the punk time capsule, some really good tracks and some less so. No real revolution here, just some excellent rock and roll tunes given an adrenalizing push by that heady ’77 atmosphere.
* Even the punkier ‘Into the Future’ has a bit of romance as its’ core:
I want a new world, I want it with you.
Want your new love, to see me through.
So honey don’t you stand and stare,
I like your clothes and I like your hair
You’re pretty messed up for only 23,
So honey won’t you come along with me.
And if you’ve some time to spare,
Take my hand and take me there.